Allegiant (2016)

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“Revenge doesn’t change anything.”

At this point, with one more chapter still left doomed to fail, the Divergent Series feels like a set of quadruplets thrust into the hamfisted hands of incompetent and unaware parents. Allegiant is the third of the bunch, left to cook in the oven for far too long. Dry and hard and chalky. Technically one of the least financially successful YA adaptations in recent years – and for good reason – new franchise helmer Robert Schwentke creates illustrious visuals holding no value below the sanguine skylines and the insipid incantations of the so-called “characters.” It’s not just that Allegiant somehow manages to be worse than its already lackluster predecessors. It’s that this time, more than ever, it seems to care so little about its audience, and worse off, its own development or progression.

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Shailene Woodley once again captains this sinking ship as Tris, the one and only pure Divergent. She’s stuck inside the walls of a dystopian Chicago, hoping to devise a plan to somehow escape Evelyn (Naomi Watts), mother of her love interest Four (Theo James), a woman who leads a massacre against the renegades in their grasp. Tris manages her way out – uneventfully – sorely copying The Hunger Games: Catching Fire  in both content and visual context. With her are brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort), devotee Christina (Zoe Kravitz), the quisling traitor Peter (Miles Teller), and the aforementioned Four. They set out against a rainkissed landscape, unknowing of where the road will take them. Allegiant may convince its minuscule fandom to follow in stride, but for those who haven’t recited the pledge, the movie transpires exactly like the rest of the series. Where’s the fun and the drama?

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What Allegiant doesn’t have is personality. I still don’t understand how a cast comprised of immensely talented young actors has been so stilted. Schwentke, who actually has a handful of solid action sequences throughout, directs these up and comers without persuasion. No one is convincing, especially when it comes to veterans Watts, Octavia Spencer, and new addition Jeff Daniels. The script comes to life visually – in what’s at least the best looking atmosphere so far – but the words are barely even recited. So much so that the peril and the stakes lean more towards the resuscitation of a CPR torso than trying to breathe life into the nonsensical plot. Either the casting choices were way off the mark or every contributor involved has just stopped caring. Perhaps both. Like a team down by 40 going into the fourth quarter, it’s impossible to not give up.

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YA adaptations typically trend towards themes of destiny and constraint, both personally for the protagonists and the world at the large. And Allegiant actually has a compelling open. Strip away the futuristic settings and you’d be left with the hateful mob mentality of a Donald Trump rally spreading like a virus through Fox News. I think he’d enjoy this film and its closed-mindedness, the insatiable thirst for power, and the attempt to secure both injustices by pandering to the simplicity of the easily understood complex that is laziness. Similar to Trump and what appears to be the majority of his bovine followers, Allegiant lacks political comprehension, instead settling for an ignorant complacency that looks grand and radical when in actuality it’s simply small and stupid. Too many try to talk the talk before they’ve learned to walk the walk.

“If you take away what they know, then you take away who they are.”

Rating: 1 out of 5

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